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Full text of "A story about a real man"

,*                                                                                                            B. POLEVOI
By midday, when it was getting appreciably warm, he
had made a considerable number of "paces" on his hands.
Whether it was due to the fact that he was^ drawing
nearer to the place from where the sounds of artillery fire
came or to some acoustical illusion, but those sounds
were louder. It was now so warm that Alexei opened the
zipper of his flying suit.
As he was crawling across a moss-covered bog^ in
which green clumps were appearing from the melting
snow, fate had another gift in store for him: on the
greyish, soft, damp moss he noticed the fine stems of a
plant bearing rare, pointed, polished leaves, between
which, right on the surface of the clumps, lay scarlet,
slightly crushed, but still luscious cranberries. Alexei bent
his head down to the clump and with his lips began to
pick berry after berry from the warm, velvety moss that
smelt of the dankness of the bog.
The pleasant sweetish-sour taste of the cranberries,
this first real food he had eaten for the past few days,
gave Alexei cramps in the stomach. But he had not the
strength of mind to wait until these cramps passed. He
wriggled from clump to clump and, like a bear, picked
the sweet and sour berries with his tongue and lips. In
this way he cleared up several clumps, feeling neither
the spring water in his sodden boots, nor the burning pain
in his feet, nor weariness—he felt nothing but the
sweetish-tart taste in his mouth and a pleasant heaviness
in the stomach.
He vomited, but still he could not restrain himself and
set about picking the berries again. He removed the self-
made "footwear" from his hands and filled the old meat tin
with ferries; he also filled his helmet, tied it by the tape
to his belt and crawled on further, overcoming with
difficulty the languor that was spreading over his whole
body.
That night, after creeping under the shelter of an old
fir-tree, he ate the berries and chewed bark and fir-cone
seeds. Then he turned in, but his sleep was that of the
anxious watcher. Several times he thought that somebody
was noiselessly creeping up to him in the darkness. He
opened his eyes and strained his ears so hard that they
began to buzz, took out his pistol and sat stock-still, start-